British Journal of Canadian Studies

Forgotten pasts and contested futures in Vancouver

British Journal of Canadian Studies (2016), 29, (2), 175–197.

Abstract

Vancouver has long enjoyed a widespread reputation as a young and forward-looking city, where the quality of life is high and the possibilities for prosperity and enjoyment are endless. This image has been crafted by generations of municipal politicians, real estate developers, and tourism boosters who present Vancouver as a city without a history, ever prepared to seize the opportunities of a globalised consumer economy. But as municipal officials and private investors continue to market this image, critics have denounced the encroachment of luxury housing and amenities in neighbourhoods long inhabited by working-class, Indigenous, immigrant, and otherwise precarious populations. Vancouver does have a history, they point out, and it is one of dispossession, exclusion, and discrimination. This article analyses the terms on which Vancouver’s past has been alternately papered over and mobilised in competing visions of urban development and planning, and suggests that historical awareness is a necessary condition for a more inclusive urban form on Canada’s Pacific coast.

Vancouver a longtemps joui d’une grande réputation de ville jeune, tournée vers l’avenir, offrant une très bonne qualité de vie et des possibilités de prospérité et de plaisir infinies. Cette image a été façonnée par des générations de politiciens municipaux, de promoteurs immobiliers et supporteurs de tourisme qui la présentent comme une ville n’ayant pas d’histoire toujours prête à saisir les opportunités offertes par une économie consumériste globalisée. Mais alors que représentants municipaux et investisseurs privés continuent à vendre cette image, des critiques dénoncent l’empiètement des logements de luxe et des équipements urbains dans des voisinages habités depuis longtemps par des ouvriers, des Autochtones, des immigrants et autres populations en situation précaires. Vancouver a bien une histoire, soulignent-ils, et c’est une histoire de dépossession, d’exclusion et de discrimination. Cet article analyse les modalités selon lesquelles le passé de Vancouver a été alternativement masqué ou mobilisé dans le cadre de visions concurrentes de développement et de planification urbain et suggère que la conscience historique est une condition nécessaire à une forme urbaine plus inclusive sur la côte Pacifique du Canada.

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Kenny, Nicolas